An Amazon Best Book of the Month, August 2014: ”I always love a good immigrant story: a tale of a young person, transplanted from the “old country” and learning the ropes (and usually teaching them to her parents) in the new. But journalist Euny Hong’s The Birth of Korean Cool is that familiar tale’s obverse: at age 12, the Chicago-born American moved with her parents back to the South Korea of their birth. And like the displaced Hong herself, the Korea of 1985 grew up fast: it became, in short order, the nation of Samsung, of newly wealthy executives, and now, Hong contends, it has become the crown prince of Asian pop culture. A kind of memoir of a culture as well as of an individual life, Hong’s first nonfiction book (she previously wrote the novel Kept: A Comedy of Sex and Manners) mixes personal memoir with interviews and research to produce a rollicking, delightful, wise-guy story of how both she and her ancestral home became the cultural icons they are today.” –Sara Nelson
Legend: “Visitor”=me. “Nicholas”=tech support guy who is either a bot or the most profound philosopher/Zen master of our day. I have boldfaced the portions that give rise to all sorts of existential musings.
Nicholas: Hi, my name is Nicholas. How may I help you?
Visitor: hi i’m looking at beds.
Visitor: does ‘foundation’ mean it has legs to stand on?
Nicholas: The lowest load-bearing part of a building, typically below ground level.
Nicholas: It’s not legs.
Nicholas: Have I answered all of your questions?
Visitor: am i correct to assume that you really are not supposed to put a box spring on the floor
Nicholas: This item comes with box spring.
Visitor: ok… my question is, would i have to buy a bed frame
Visitor: by the way, what is the point of your giving me this information earlier: “The lowest load-bearing part of a building, typically below ground level”
Nicholas: For more comfort level you can purchase bed frame.
Visitor: ok. what are the advantages of a mattress with boxspring, as opposed to a mattress that you use with a platform bed frame, with no box spring?
Nicholas: The box spring will result in the mattress being higher off the ground.
Nicholas: I hope this information is helpful to you.
Nicholas: Are there any other concerns that I can address for you?
Visitor: is one particularly more comfortable than the other?
Visitor: can you be more specific?
Visitor: which is more comfortable than which please
Nicholas: A platform bed is more adequate and flexible.
Visitor: then why do mattresses+box spring combinations cost more than a platform bed?
Nicholas: I’m so sorry,we don’t have information on this. I will forward this issue to a specialized representative in our Product Department to help you with this and you will be contacted via phone or email within 1-2 business days.
Nicholas: Please provide me your full name, email address and the phone number for the follow-up.
Visitor: [contact info provided]
Nicholas: Thanks for the details. We’ll get back to you in 1-2 business days.
Nicholas: Do you have any other questions for me?
Visitor: apparently not.
I just asked someone, “How do you say Vorlesung in Korean?”
Hong (Kept: A Comedy of Sex and Manners, 2006, etc.) has a mischievous sense of humor when it comes to culture clashes, so it’s a pleasure to see her turn her wicked talents on “Hallyu.”
I used to have my own weekly TV column in the Financial Times, back when you could actually get paid pots of money for writing what bloggers now write for free. Because of my resentment of those kinds of gigs having disappeared, I don’t usually write about TV unless someone is paying me to do so. But I cannot resist. After last night’s Mad Men episode, I just cannot.
First of all, that genius, jazz-quality riffing between Don and Peggy when they were coming up with the ad campaign for Burger Chef.
(I’m paraphrasing here. Don’t feel like rewatching the episode to check quotes)
Peggy: What is Burger Chef rescuing people from…. What if the mom can’t cook because she was at work?
Don (incredulously): What kind of work would she be doing?
Peggy (also incredulously): You are surrounded by mothers who work!
Don: It’s too depressing for an ad.
This is amazing dialogue. Nailed it. Nailed it, reason 1: This natural, automatic assumption that working mothers symbolise the erosion of civilised living. How horrific it sounds to our modern ears, all the more horrific because we can’t help feeling it contains a ring of truth. Which is of course NOT to say that mothers shouldn’t work, but that almost 100% of working mothers still feel terribly, terribly guilty about working.
Nailed it, reason 2: Creative epiphany comes after painful, truth-telling sacrifice. After Peggy’s gut-wrenching reflection on what she did wrong her life, that is the very very moment at which she realises she has stumbled on the perfect ad campaign.
Bravo, Weiner. Chapeau.
If you were to ask me which fictional character I most identified with, of course I’d say Lizzy Bennett or Cathy Earnshaw. But there’s another, rather less appealing one: the 14 c. hunchback Italian monk Salvatore from Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose, who speaks no real language but a mixture of at least half a dozen, including Latin, vulgate Italian, French, Spanish, English, German. Here’s a sampling of his speech:
penitenziagite! watch out for the draco who cometh in futurum to gnaw your anima! death is super nos! pray the santo pater come to liberar nos a malo and all our sin! ha ha, you like this negromanzia de domini nostri jesu christi! et anco jois m’es dols e plazer m’es dolors…cave el diabolo!
That. Is. What. Speech. Sounds. Like. In. My. Head. And it’s alienating. And lonely, unless you are around people who are like you. Which is why in some ways it’s fitting that this character would be a hunchback, and burned as a heretic (spoilers fair game; if you’d wanted to read an Eco novel you’d have read it already.)
I only know 4 languages. And I do mean “only”–Americans think 4 is a great deal, but I know loads of people who speak a lot more languages than 4. But I often can’t think of the word for something in one language and I get very frustrated when the correct word, but in the wrong language, wants to trip off my tongue. I honestly feel like some kind of feral child sometimes. Like those nightmares some people have – and I am one of them – about wanting to say something but finding you are mute. Or trying to text someone and discovering your phone keeps texting the wrong words.
Those consonants at the end the phrase “coup de grace” are not silent. So if you pronounce it coup de “graaahhh,” I will laugh. Not to be mean, but because phonetically speaking, you have just said “a blow of fat.” (coup de gras, as it were, which I hope is not a real thing)